Review: P.C. Cast’s House of Night: Legacy
I was pretty dubious about House of Night: Legacy, when I first picked it up. Does the world really need another graphic novel about a school for vampires—preciously spelled “vampyres”?
The answer turns out to be yes, if it’s this one. I’m not familiar with the Casts’ prose novels, on which this is based (it takes place between scenes of House of Night: Betrayal, the second novel in the series), but that’s fine, as this book stands nicely on its own.
House of Night: Legacy
By P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Art by Joelle Jones, Karl Kerschl, Joshua Covey, Daniel Krall, Jonathan Case, and Eric Canete
Actually, while things happen in the vampyre school, that plot is really a framing device for the retelling of five stories from history, all of which have a vampyre spin—and each of which is done by a different artist in a distinctive style.
The book does kind of lurch into the story in the middle: On the opening page we meet Zoey Redbird, who was an ordinary teenager until she somehow became not only a vampyre but a super-duper vampyre, specially selected by the goddess Nyx to be a leader of the school. A quick bit of background info is in order here: In the world of this book, teenagers go through a maturing process to become full-fledged vampyres, during which they develop tattoos that expand and get filled in. Zoey’s tattoos are way ahead of everyone else’s.
As the book begins she has already landed in the vampyre school, made some friends, and knocked the school bully off her perch—in other words, House of Night dispenses with all the tiresome aspects of YA books and, after a bit of clumsy expository dialogue, we move straight to the meat of this comic, which is Zoey asking for guidance from the goddess and getting five stories to help her figure out some life lessons.
Didactic? No way! The first story is drawn from Norse history; it’s about the king Olave Kirre who (in real life) brought peace and unity to his kingdom—but in this book was secretly a vampyre who sold out his own people. The book continues with vampyre takes on the Celtic queen Boudicca (Boadacea), Odysseus and Circe, Cleopatra, and Hercules and the Amazons.
My one complaint about this book—and it’s a serious one—is that the five stories don’t match the framing tale in tone or age level. The story of Zoey Redbird is straight-up YA supernatural/boarding school fiction, nicely done, but the historical stories include quite a bit of sex and violence. The story of Boudicca, for instance, includes a bloody flogging, a stabbing, and several not-quite-offscreen rapes. Several of the others included nudity and sex scenes.
Where the drinking of blood is often a surrogate for sex in teen vampire books (see Lianne Sentar’s excellent—and hilarious—analysis of Vampire Knight for more on this), in House of Night that relationship is made explicit. First of all, the blood-drinking is consensual, and in several of the stories it signals the beginning of sexual attraction. Furthermore, when a vampyre drinks a human’s blood, the human often “imprints” on the vampyre, developing a strong attraction for her. In the world of the school, where the characters are all teenagers, this is presented as a crush, but the grownups just go ahead and have sex.
So this book is an odd hybrid, with a framing tale a 12-year-old would enjoy but interior stories that are much more adult.
The difference shows up in the art too. It’s all good, but it’s very different. Joelle Jones has a perfect style for a vampire-school story, sharp-edged and dynamic but not too exaggerated. The other artists all have distinctive styles that, again, seem more at home in an adult title than a YA one.
Dark Horse rates the House Night: Legacy as 14+, but there’s enough problematic content that anyone handing it to a teenager should at least flip through it first. Fortunately, that’s not a terrible burden; the art in this book is fantastic, the coloring is beautiful, and the stories are engaging. It’s a great graphic novel; it’s just too bad that it’s not really a great YA graphic novel.
Filed under: Reviews, Young Adult
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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